Fish Killing Mania: Australia’s War Against the Common Carp
The scene is unforgettable and unforgivable: an elected official, the deputy prime minister of Australia, cutting loose about a fish species introduced into the country by his ancestors, and demanding their annihilation. During the near-lunatic display by Barnaby Joyce, even his own colleagues betrayed embarrassment and alarm at the full-throated shrieks of “carp, carp”. With crazed eyes and crimson face, Joyce went on to assure fellow parliamentarians that viral weapons will be deployed against the common carp, otherwise known as Cyprinus carpio. The cannonade of ecological warfare had been announced, though preparations for the war had long been in progress.
In 2017, the Sydney Morning Herald ran a piece befitting the great terror pieces that fret and agitate at the unknown and unseen. “Today no one really knows how many are in the rivers of our eastern states and particularly the Murray-Darling, but if you were to say 10 million, few aquatic scientists would contradict you.”
The carp is inherently consumable, traditional in a number of cuisines, and central to a number of religious rites. But in Australia, the murderous kill comes before sound and sensible management, vengeful destruction before the understanding. As with every species introduced into the vulnerable space of Australian ecology, thuggish retribution for one’s failings is a default position, the cover for human error and incompetence. Often, that retribution is of a colossal, industrial scale, marked by poisoning or viral delivery, connived in by the scientific and political establishment.
The language used to demonise the relevant species never strays far from hyperbole. Federal MP Gavin Pearce stated a few examples in a 2020 speech gloating about Tasmania being “on the verge of eradicating” the common carp. “They are described as water wreckers, resource hogs or trash fish.” In 1994, we find a reference by the Victorian National Parks Association that the fish were biblical dangers akin to “underwater rabbits”. Given that rabbits in Australia have themselves been the subject of experimental torture, liquidation and extirpation for just being rabbits, this was a revealing point.
The wording from the current National Carp Control Plan is less colloquial but no less contemptuous of the fish. “Carp have major negative impacts on water quality and the amenity value of our freshwater environments. Carp also have a devastating impact on biodiversity and have decimated native fish populations in many areas since they first became established as a major pest in the wild in the 1960s.” And whose fault, pray, is that?
The NCCP, comprising 11 national and international institutions, 40 research scientists and work spanning six years is “the largest feasibility assessment of a biological control agent in Australia.” The premise is unmistakable: the use of biological warfare against a loathed animal. While nation states and their human representatives officially shun chemical and biological agents as scourges of humanity, scientists and officials in Australia relish the prospective deployment of Cyprinid herpesvirus 3 (carp virus).
The decision as to whether such an agent will be used, and to what extent, will fall to the various governments in Australia. Committees such as the Environment and Invasives Committee, the National Biosecurity Committee and the Agriculture Senior Officials’ Committee, are all involved in giving advice. “The Australian and state and territory agriculture ministers will be the ultimate decision makers on whether to proceed further with the biological release program following a formal review of the NCCP.”
Such levels of lunacy have been called out, though few critics can be found in Australia. In 2017, University of East Anglia researchers Jackie Lighten and Cock van Oosterhout warned that the herpes virus proposal was of an “irreversible and high-risk” nature, and could have “serious ecological, environmental, and economic ramifications.” While biocontrol measures had been successfully used to target certain terrestrial vertebrates, “the biocontrol of large, highly fecund aquatic animals such as carp adds novel risks.” It was also pointed out that the NCCP had omitted salient areas of work in reaching its findings.
In subsequent work on the subject, researchers have argued that the release of the Koi Herpesvirus would be an exercise in futility in curbing the numbers of the common carp. In time, the creature would develop resistance, seeing a comprehensive recovery of numbers. “KHV will rarely result in prolonged reductions or population extinctions,” write Kate Mintram, van Oosterhout and Lighten in the Journal of Applied Ecology. “Crucially, realistic scenarios result in a rapidly rebounding population of resistant individuals.” The authors go on to state that, “A high probability of population extinction is only met when carp fecundity is reduced to 1% of biological observations.”
As Lighten opined in 2020, “Releasing KHV carries significant risks to human and ecosystem health, which likely outweigh the benefits and we have previously urged further detailed research to avoid an unnecessary ecological catastrophe.” Even in the face of industrial slaughter and biological warfare, this remarkable fish continues to outwit and prevail.
In place of adopting this devastating, daft solution, there are other options: Why not eat and use a species otherwise considered a pest? A chef interviewed on the 7.30 Report was sensibly focused on the gastronomic properties of the common carp, noting that celebrities such as Serbia’s Novak Djokovic eat it with relish. But that selling point is unlikely to fly in the face of the megadeath industry that propels Australia’s often calamitous environmental policies.
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Beetroot should give politics a miss and thereby help us all.
Why not do a bit of research on carp as a food source and establish a fishing industry to catch them for the table, the amount of fish that we import is very large, carp and chips for lunch anyone?
With the Beetrooter and Brother Stuie et al wot chance have we got !
Does there need to be more research into this specific biological control measure? Without a doubt.
Are common carp a major pest in our waterways, crowding out native fish and causing serious ecological problems? Equally unquestionable.
Honestly, the degree of hyperbole in this article is on a par with the Beetrooter’s testeria. I expect better from Dr Kampmark.
When we’ve eaten all the carp we can start on the mice and grasshoppers. Yum.
Binoy, have you seen what carp do to an ecosystem?
Brings to mind the introduction of cane toads,which was a howling success.The only thing that mystifies me, is why we didn’t introduce Asiatic elephants to stomp them out of existence.As for the imbecelic beetrooter,he could serve his country by throwing himself into an infested waterway,thereby causing the offending carp to fling themselves out onto the bank.Probably clear about three river systems.
Forget about eating them. They’re damn awful.
I was brought up, to a large extent, in the upper Murray region of Sth Aust. As a young kid I sometimes went out on the river with my father & his cousin on cuz’s boat, accompanying them while they fished for Redfin, Murray Cod, & Catfish. All native species. And all now in steep decline thanks to the invasive and fecund European Carp. I don’t understand Binoy’s somewhat defensive essay in favour of that disastrous piscine anomaly, anymore than his apparent wish to let rabbits be rabbits, conveniently ignoring the equally disastrous impact they have had on this country’s ecosystem.
Sure, Barnaby is an idiot, and that’s well-documented, as is his tendency to lapse into dramatics and hyperbole on whatever the topic du jour happens to be, but in this instance I’d stand on the sidelines and cheer him on, ‘Go Barnaby, here’s another beer, matey! Get into those carp, go get ’em sunshine.’
There’s no rational reason for anybody to frame arguments in favour of any feral animal of whatever form in this country. In the space of less than 250 years white settlers have managed to turn this continent’s landscape into the most damaged of any continent on the planet, along the way introducing the greatest number of feral species of, again, any continent.
The logistics are daunting. Millions of feral cats killing equal millions of native birds and ground-dwelling small fauna. Ungulates – hard-hooved animals – goats, pigs, horses & donkeys, buffalos, deer – all doing inestimable damage to fragile soils & ecosystems and spoiling waterways. Camels in their hundreds of thousands, or more than a million by some estimates. Not to mention the many millions of ‘legally farmed’ sheep, cattle and to a lesser extent, goats. Foxes, rabbits – introduced by ignorant settlers as sport and left to future generations to cope with the consequences, along with everyone’s best-known amphibian, the accursed cane toad… we’ve certainly made a mess of our back yard, by crikey.
I’d much rather we canned any fantasy around spending billions on submarines and diverted that spend towards cleaning up the countryside instead. Future generations will thank us for it.
And a heads up to leefe for introducing the word testeria, the first time I’ve seen it in these pages and so perfectly apt and in context. I’m fully on her side, this is not one of Dr Kampmark’s better efforts.
Aaand… on a lighter note..Cock van Oosterhout?…Really? Hiya Cock,how they hanging?
I suggest REVENGE RISSOLES, made from feral animals, carp, maggots, vermin and certain dud politicians. These delicious rissoles (but it could be fish fingers or fingernails or cloacal clambakes) are to be served to corporate boards in strict instructed conditions, enforced I say by the ICAC, to make up for FILTHY profiteering and the resting on the caviar, champers, huge steaks, lobsters etc,. B Joyce, himself a carp type, though lower, is such an authority, (was it fornication and enebriation??) that we must listen, just before forgetting. BUT, if the carp, and other things in excess, could be usefully, profitably, gainfully, sensibly used for us, (cat burger, toad burger, former conservative politician burger) we should learn to eat it with our sushi or muesli…
Allowing a feral pest to be naturalised is bad enough but suggesting we accept these damaging vermin is lunacy.
My son has been experimenting with cooking carp. The flesh is quite good, but bones can be problematic. Does anyone have some cooking hints?
Phil, I saw reindeer burgers in Helsinki some years ago.
No, I didn’t buy one. I just couldn’t.
Beetrooter at full rave is a sight from which children should be protected. I blame the Tamworth ladies who concede their inferior social position by accepting that their representative in Parliament is a fit & proper person for the role because of his adultery, alcoholism, bigotry, cronyism, deceit, fornication and sexual harassment. These ”wonderful” attributes make him a perfect match for the ”leaders” within the COALition like Boofhead Duddo, $us$san Leyzee and Little-to-be-proud-of.
Ha ha ha haaaar, Leefe, ‘testeria’, love it. Thanks, it’s now firmly in my lexicon.
Back to Dr Binoy.
I grew up in Vic, in a riverine environment, and roamed and fished the rivers all over Vic and further north. In doing so I have encountered more introduced invasive species than natives. And with or without testeria or hysteria they have been dealt with or not:
Cats: not dealt with because of domestic stupidity
Goats: now progressively becoming an industrial resource
Camels: very slowly becoming an industrial resource
Deer: not adequately dealt with because of the hairy-chested desires of sporting shooters
Brumbies: not dealt with because of domestic / industrial contest
Trout: no longer stocked in our rivers
Roach: being eliminated via fishing controls
Redfin: being eliminated via fishing controls
I first encountered the said Carp many years ago whilst fishing in the Murray at Barmah, and was getting a tad annoyed about it. I had heard that they were inedible. Across the river, an ‘italian’ orchardist came to tend to his pump. We had an exchange about the fish, he said, “We eat them often, you’ve got to know how to treat them.” He went on to tell me the process, which I applied, and the proof was in the eating – they were delicious.
I don’t see Dr Binoy’s article as barracking for the Carp and the environmental destruction it wreaks. More a tale of the sensation, and a caution pertaining to alleged biological (Viral) or chemical controls. A principle with which I agree entirely.
In the face of sensation and desperation the government has in the past committed heinous human health and environmental toxification by going ‘ready, fire, aim’ rather than undertaking thorough research, think DDT, and further, although the dangers were well understood, government agencies ridding themselves post-Vitnem war, foisting Agent Orange onto the general public as a herbicide – deadly. Although largely concealed / inaccessible to the public, the long-term effects of DDT (and Dieldrin – used around schools to rid termites) result in exposure to children (who play in the dirt), and later for them as parents, the increased incidence of birth defects has a direct correlation to the locales where those chemicals were applied, and they once played.
The Beetrooter performs as an utter loud-mouthed, drunken idiot – a very dangerous man. Perhaps he should be expelled back to NZ from whence he came. His very presence appears to be an invitation and promotion of brutish bog-ignorance. There should be a Royal Commission into him – he may end up in gaol. Everything he touches appears to turn into a shit-show – his moving of APVMA to Armidale was for his own devices only, and resulted in a major depletion of staff, skill levels, and efficacy of the department – I’m sure he and dodgy, cynical bar-room mates are pleased.
It seems, in the animal stakes, we are quite happy to wreak havoc on the environment provided it is for culturally sanctioned sport or industrialisation for export (or if we can afford it, our tummies). Think Tassie Salmon farms (anoxia and waste), think deer (understorey wreckage), think cattle production (methane).
As a process of control and elimination from the riparian environment, why not industrialise the Carp for export (and / or our tummies) it is a fine protein / food source used across the world – mainly Asia. It is certainly a major pest here, and needs to be attended to asap. Perhaps we can feed it to chooks so we can get some eggs? The Beetrooter, of course will use anything to pump up cultural xenophobia – why feed stinking fish to the undeserving – wouldn’t touch ’em with a barge pole!
Perhaps he’s got shares in the production of the virus?
I like your style and agree that how carp are treated and cooked after capture is the key to their edibility, imagine the amount of people could be employed in this industry, and we should be looking closely at our political drones who are supposed to serve our interests instead of their own, lets have a go at voting the bastards out of their parasitical protection racket.
“In place of adopting this devastating, daft solution, there are other options: Why not eat and use a species otherwise considered a pest? A chef interviewed on the 7.30 Report was sensibly focused on the gastronomic properties of the common carp, noting that celebrities such as Serbia’s Novak Djokovic eat it with relish.”
Carp are a pest, they eat all available food, multiply extremely rapidly and cause the death of most other species. Rats are rats, pigeons are flying rats and carp are swimming rats. And they are NOT good eating, despite the attempt to use Novak Djokovic as some type of culinary expert.
I think I know where Dr Binoy is coming from.
Sure, they need to be eradicated for the damage they do, but is there a use to put all the dead fish to?
As an aside, I seem to recall it was illegal in SA to return a caught carp to the river alive. It had to be killed if it was going to be thrown back in.
Uhm ….. in NW NSW before COVID there were several Carp Captures Competitions that paid for the biggest, the smallest etc then minced them into fertiliser or fertiliser solution that apparently was very effective.
As mentioned above, the waste of protein by leaving feral animal carcasses to rot where thewy lie is financially silly. Better to harvest the ferals and process for export to foreign markets that appreciate the delicacies.
Thank you. My point exactly. And, I believe, Dr Binoy’s as well.